"Age doesn't always bring wisdom. Sometimes age comes alone." - Unknown
We've seen so many young teams fail in the postseason, in situations just like this. Spring the amazing upset in the first round, then fall apart against the season, veteran team that knows how to execute. That's how it's supposed to go, right? The
Turns out, not so much.
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Instead, as Stephen Cury said post-game, the Warriors have outplayed the Spurs in seven of the first eight quarters of this series, and instead of falling apart under the pressure and against the experience, the kids have put San Antonio in a corner.
Golden State has five players getting heavy minutes and another getting spot minutes in these playoffs under the age of 25. They start three of them. They don't just play guys in their first playoff appearances, they rely on them. They depend on their performances. In Game 2, it was Klay Thompson. In Game 1, Stephen Curry. Vs. the Nuggets, it was all of them. Draymond Green has stepped up and hit shots... when he was a terrible shooter in the regular season! This is Curry's first playoff appearance and he's leading a team back to the Roaracle with a series split for the second straight time.
And in the other locker room... something alarming is happening. Tony Parker suddenly looks pedestrian. And Manu Ginobili, so dominant in the series against the Lakers, just looks sad. This was the concern with Ginobili after his explosive first series. This has been the case with Manu for the past two years. He has games where he looks dominant, and the call goes out that "Ginobili is back!" Then he fades away again. He'll likely have another game to make an impact on this series or future ones should the Spurs advance. But there is also the risk of a game like Wednesday's.
It wasn't just leaving shots on the rim. It was that late in the game, he was looking to be the hero instead of making the smart pass in transition. That works out when he's making every shot possible. That didn't happen Wednesday, and the physical cost seemed to wear on his decision making.
And then there's Tim Duncan.
Invisible, at the worst time. Here's Duncan's fourth quarter shot chart:
This isn't Duncan's fault. For as great as Duncan has been this season, the team has evolved to rely on the system, the entire team. I've written about how that's what has made the team strong. And it really has. That wasn't suddenly untrue on Wednesday.
But it does mean that the traditional ideology of veteran leadership being a major advantage is not true in this series. The Warriors aren't completely young. Jarrett Jack is a veteran. Andrew Bogut, Carl Landry, these guys have been around. But the majority of the work is being done by shooters on the wing who are still getting used to the playoff schedule. And they're dominating one of the finest execution teams in NBA history.
Did the Spurs suddenly get too old? Is this, in a cruel twist of fate, the moment where they pass their prime against a younger, more spry team who also is able to play comfortable, poised basketball despite the odds? Are the Warriors just wise beyond their years? Do they simply hold th execution advantage through an outlier approach?
Or maybe the question has always been about mental focus and not about age. Maybe the Warriors just have a talented team playing better right now and that's what matters.
One thing's for certain. The Spurs now have to board a plane to the Bay Area with old bodies, and no comfort or confidence if that wisdom comes with them. The Warriors return home where wisdom may not be waiting, but 20,000 maniacs are. And the next two games may reveal whether experience is about to become another obstacle the Warriors run roughshod over.